Has there been any time when you sang the jingle for Nima soap commercial ‘Nima Rose Nima Rose’ and you did not get a ‘Roz roz Nima Rose’ in return? That’s how powerful the advertising industry is. See how TV commercials in India took baby steps towards something we all like: Progress.
In the beginning there was Nirma. Nirma begat Hima, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma. The four women totally rocked the dance floor. Like this.
And then Nirma evolved. They figured out that these four women could do more than dance. So then they became women who decided to act while men stood watching, scared of the muddy Indian puddles. They started saving lives and giving men the looks for being complete morons.
Nirma – India’s best ad nostalgia – evolved in ways possible for them. Recent trends in other commercials, are promising in many ways.
1. News Flash: Deodorants are not aphrodisiacs
Perfumes and deodorants were always aphrodisiacs because all their ads said so. Men be like ‘zup-zup’ with a zig zag action over their torso,
and suddenly a lot of half naked women be like
Fastrack launched their publicity material which may not have looked like aphrodisiac commercials but but were always about sex. That has not changed much. Their recent ad shows a girl offering to help a guy burn calories. No, not in the physical trainer way. She is suggesting him that they burn calories by making out. Not bad. Bharateey naari is not exactly expected to state their sexual desire. It’s blasphemous. Question: How is objectifying men the solution to objectifying women?
2. Women have sex too. Sometimes with women.
Anyway, somewhere along the road, Fastrack too evolved and stopped being heteronormative. It was no longer about women objectifying women. [Remember how in one of their ads Genelia D’Souza asked Virat Kohli if it was a ‘new one’ indicating his new bag as well as his new sex partner?] In one of their ads, Fastrack ‘moved on,’ like their tagline. It showed two women making out in a closet. Well, it showed the rocking closet and the women coming out of the closet. This was particularly pathbreaking because of the huge stigma associated with closet homosexuals and them coming out. The Anouk ad which showed a lesbian couple came much later. At the time it released, the Fastrack ad would have made everyone in the living room uncomfortable while watching it on TV.
3. Married. With children. Like already
Tanishq always stood a style apart from other jewellers in the aesthetics of the films they made. But when they really stepped it up was in 2013 when they showed something unusual in Bharat: A mother getting married. The woman, unapologetic and confident took her vows around the holy fire with her girl child who felt she should also get to do the round round walk. [A custom in Hindu weddings]. It stood out not only because traditionally, a mother or a married woman is supposed to be ‘loyal’ to her husband – the one who fathers her children. Till death. Keep in mind that this is country which had something called Sati. It was abolished, yes, but not quite from people’s minds. So yes, Tanishq managed to prick those sensitive spots of the traditional Indian. A Femina advertisement from the same year portrayed a grown up woman blessing her mother in the latter’s marriage. Almost as if the young girl in the Tanishq ad had grown up, intertextually.
4. The Commercial which said ‘Hi’ from Transgender Community
But you know who the winner is, in all of this? Unquestionably Vicks Vaporub. This recent ad got just everything right. The one in which probably for the first time in the history of this country, a transgender mother was shown and the role was played by a real life transgender mother. It was Gauri Sawant, renowned transgender activist who played the role. Usually when there is a role of a transgender person, filmmakers always felt like making male actors wear women’s clothes. That and effeminate body language were what constituted such roles in films. [For the giggles, yeah].
But what is truly incredible is the way in which Vicks Vaporub, which in the past only had absolute crap and misogyny to offer made this ad. Compare it with what Vicks used to be: a salve for men, both grown up and not. The woman’s role was to tend to them with Vicks when they fell ill. In 2013 Vicks even explicitly stated that grown up men were children. Umm…don’t mind agreeing as long as they change their diapers themselves! As close as 2015, they said that women did not dream. While the grown up child [the husband] dreamed of success in his job and the ‘little hero’ of saving the world, the mother was there there to allow them to dream without coughing. Applying Vicks on their chests.
Need more of this, yes
Vicks, god knows how, woke up to the reality that women are people. If anybody knows what hit their head, please let the world know. It has a long list of people who need a whack with the same instrument. For Vicks made a number of quantum leaps all at once. They realized that women have dreams [of becoming a doctor or a lawyer], that women make choices [leaving home in teenage, getting a sex change operation, deciding to adopt a child, not getting married…] They in fact, acknowledged that in this country transpeople are never treated well and that people need to fight for their rights. Congratulations, Vicks, this shall remain one of the most important turning points in advertising and ad filmmaking.